Marketers have always been trying to unlock the path of least resistance to in-store purchases. While broad strokes don't capture the various behaviors and activities that consumers go through during their shopping routines, those different pathways have become even more profound and challenging for CPG (consumer-packaged goods) marketers since the rise of smartphones.
A new study about the impact of smartphone use on in-store shopping from Google and a group of marketing agencies known as the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council concludes that smartphones are transforming the shopping experience and that CPG brands and retailers have embrace these behavioral changes as opportunities, not challenges.
"There's this huge shopping transformation being led by technology," says Kevin Kells, national industry director of CPG at Google. "Increased engagement, especially in stores, is leading to greater purchases in every product category…It really is taking the friction out of the shopping experience."
Shoppers who frequently use their smartphone to research products and compare prices in-store spend an average of 25 percent more per transaction than those who rarely augment their shopping trips with the aid of a smartphone.
"Those folks who are actually using the mobile more are buying more in-store," Kells adds. Manufacturers are "scrambling to figure it out," he says, but reinforces that empowered smartphone shopping behaviors and the brands that want to capitalize on these changes are "at the beginning of the journey."
Nearly eight in 10, or 79 percent of smartphone users use their devices in-store at least once a month to assist in shopping, according to the study. Shoppers are pulling their smartphones out of their purses and pockets to assist in all product categories, but the leading CPGs include appliances (97 percent), groceries (89 percent), baby care (87 percent), electronics (87 percent), and household care (86 percent).
Total purchase amounts also increase across product categories when smartphones come into play, however, health and beauty purchases increase the most at an average rate of 50 percent per transaction. The median basket size also increases an average of 40 percent with appliances, 34 percent with electronics, and 25 percent with household care products, says Google.
The "Mobile In-Store Research" study also found that almost half of all smartphone shoppers use their device for at least 15 minutes in-store. This behavior is enabling shoppers to engage less with customer service representatives, as one in three smartphone shoppers will turn to their device to find information instead of asking employees for help. Indeed, time was cited as the primary benefit of using a smartphone while shopping with more than half of the survey's respondents reporting that smartphones cut back on the amount of time they spend shopping now.
While some retailers have taken a more protective stance against show-rooming and deeper in-store research enabled by smartphones, Kells believes it's only a matter of time before CPG brands and retailers embrace smartphone shoppers without reservation.
"It's very difficult to change consumer behavior," he says. "If you are concerned about show-rooming…I think you really have to rethink the whole shopping experience." Retailers and CPG brands should confront this transformation by determining where they can add value to the smartphone-powered journey of shopping, he adds. "You want to start to own that digital shelf," Kells says. "You should wake up caring as much about the digital shelf and the online shopping experience as your physical shelf" in-store.